Last night, one of the most understated Nationals, Jordan Zimmermann showed a lot of emotion. Not only walking off the mound after striking out the side in the seventh inning, but hitting the radar gun a good two-three MPH higher than usual. The adrenaline was definitely pumping and he credits the crowd for that. He even said that he wants to pitch in tonight’s Game 5 to feel that again. I don’t blame him. However, if Zimmermann pitches in tonight’s game, that would mean one of two things. Something has gone horribly, horribly wrong, or we are watching one of the longest games in NLDS history.
With Gio Gonzalez starting, you wouldn’t expect a quick hook from Davey Johnson like you could have yesterday. The advantage that Zimmermann had yesterday was the ability to go multiple innings and being a right-hander in case Ross Detwiler struggled. If Detwiler struggles (which he didn’t) that’s one thing. If Gonzalez does, that could spell trouble for the Nationals. If Gonzalez goes six, I would expect to see Ryan Mattheus in the game instead of Zimmermann in that spot. Obviously the longer the game goes, the more important Zimmermann may become. Ideally, you want to save him for Game 1 of the NLCS but things rarely go the way you want them to.
So, you can make the argument that should Zimmermann pitch it means either worst-case scenario for Washington or that we are watching a classic game in front of our very eyes. The same thing probably applies for the Cardinals and Lance Lynn who gave threw one more pitch than Zimmermann did yesterday. However, Lynn threw them all to Jayson Werth and didn’t record an out. Lynn, like Zimmermann is likely the Cardinals next starter if they make the NLCS with the injury to Jaime Garcia. However, he can be an attractive option for Mike Matheny out of the bullpen. However, I think both pitchers will only be used in extreme cases.
Yes, you want to win tonight but you also don’t want it to throw your entire NLCS off as well. It is a very tricky slope to navigate. This isn’t Game 7 of the World Series where you throw everything out for today. This is Game 5 of the NLDS and you still want to win eight more games. It is what managers make the money they do for, but if it was my hat on the line I would hold back on Zimmermann and Lynn in tonight’s game if I could.
Going into Game 5, it is important to remember that momentum is only as good as your next day’s starting pitcher. For the Nationals, it is important that their Cy Young hopeful got all of his jitters out in Game 1 and for the Cardinals, they need more of the same from Adam Wainwright.